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Poster: light into ashes Date: May 19, 2011 11:00am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: from Keith to Brent

I thought I'd write up a few brief notes on one phase of Playing, from '78 to '80...

This is an example of an excellent mid-1978 Playing:
The band's pretty charged-up at this show, and there's a lot of variety in this version. Jerry's still using his drifting 'magical' wah style, and the band is driving and percussive. But they switch gears a few times, Jerry changing his tone & approach, so it's reminiscent of older Playings where the mood would keep shifting.

Jumping ahead, this is one of the best Playings of early '79, Keith's last shows: -
Keith stays in the background, as was his preference in the last year. The big change is Jerry - in early '79 he favored a constant flurry of fast notes, and in Playings of this period he basically stays in that mode throughout, so that it sounds kind of like a long Eyes outro (though there's also a little meltdown in this version).

Once Brent joined, the Playing jam changed its nature a bit. Playings from the rest of the year tend to be very slow, calm, and probing - although Jerry's noodling rapidly along, the band stays very restrained and laid-back. Brent mainly adds color; in his first year, he doesn't take the lead in the jams as much as Keith did in '71. The big events in these '79 Playings are the meltdowns they'd sometimes throw in at the ends, with Brent tossing his sci-fi sounds into the maelstrom.
Playings from this year also tend to be long, in the 20-minute range, and to my ears very monotonous - I admit this is not my favorite year for this tune, as 20 minutes of quiet noodling can be pretty dull, and it's hard to find a Playing I like very much!
Some of that may be the nature of the SBD tapes we have, as the band dynamics are not as apparent as on good AUD tapes. For instance, you get a better idea of the 8/4 Playing from the AUD than from the awful SBD tape:
12/28 is by far the best of the late '79 Playings, and in terms of energy seems to signal a shift toward the more energetic 1980 shows. As you said, they deliberately shortened the jams in 1980; the tradeoff was that their playing was punchier and more active. So 1980 Playings to my ears, though shorter, tend to be more interesting than the ones from '79. (Brent also starts stepping out more - ironically, he sometimes has a percussive-chord approach in these jams not much different from where Keith ended up!)
Some examples from the spring:

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Poster: bkidwell Date: May 19, 2011 11:34am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: from Keith to Brent

I'm pretty much 100% agreed on everything you just wrote, thanks as always. In my notes for several late 79 versions is "does not justify its length" so we agree in general, but I think I enjoy the quiet hypnotic-trance feel more than you. When it works, I think it creates a really fascinating sense of floating weightlesness, but its like a soap bubble, it can pop and leave nothing but air and a slight sour taste!

I think one aspect I enjoy is the idea of really large scale composition over the years - if every PITB from 71-95 was quiet and hypnotic in the fashion of the late 70s, I would be very unhappy! I really like it as a "flavor" that is focused on just a few years, though. That applies even to, say, the superlative versions from Europe 72 - even though a random 82 Playin is weaker than a random 72, the process of change over the decade makes me glad, and I think the dead would be a less important and interesting band if the E72 sound and style had "frozen" and a late 80s show sounded identical to the ear.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: May 19, 2011 10:54pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: from Keith to Brent

bkidwell,happy to share a quick list of versions that I enjoy,and thank you for the time and effort you put into the interesting and informative posts you have been sharing with the forum.

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Poster: Jim F Date: May 21, 2011 12:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: from Keith to Brent

Much agreed on 1/15/79, I never get tired of that jam. 11/6/79 is also a decent 79 version, from the early-Brent perspective.